Wilmington and Island Beaches Accolades

Another day, another accolade. Well, not exactly. But a recent surge in tourism-related national recognitions has certainly kept Wilmington and the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach in the news. We thought it might be fun to harvest some of the more recent Kudos for your enjoyment and consideration!


NHC Arboretum bridge

New Hanover County Arboretum earned the 2023 Sustainability Award presented by American Public Gardens Association's Award Committee. The Sustainability Award recognizes public gardens for its commitment to promoting and using sustainable practices in addition to showing innovation in programming that educates the public on sustainability. 

USA Today 10Best Logo

The star of Wilmington's revitalized riverfront, the Wilmington Riverwalk, has been chosen as one of USA TODAY 10Best Readers' Choice 2023 Best Riverwalks. The vibrant space allows for outdoor recreation, al fresco dining, nightlife, water tours, cultural activity and scenic views.

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Wilmington's Battleship NORTH CAROLINA named one of the Best North Carolina Attraction by USA TODAY.

Orbitz logo in blue

Airlie Gardens named by Orbitz as the Best Place to Get Married in North Carolina.

Conde Nast Traveler logo

Condé Nast Traveler named Thalian Hall Center for Performing Arts one of The Best Movie Theaters in America, noting its flair for the dramatic revival and late Victorian architecture and frequent film festivals and acts on stage.

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USA TODAY 10BEST Reader’s Choice Awards voted The Battleship NORTH CAROLINA as one of the top five Best Museum Ships in the U.S.

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FoxNews.com included the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA in its list of Best of America's Battleships & Aircraft Carriers on Display.

Architectural Digest Logo

Architectural Digest featured Thalian Hall Center for Performing Arts among its roundup of 14 Historic American Theaters.


Food & Drink

USA Today Logo

USA Today named Wilmington's Catch as one of the best restaurants in the U.S. in their 2024 Restaurants of the Year.

James Beard Foundation Logo

Chef Chris Dean Neff of Seabird recognized as a semifinalist for the 2024 James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Chef Nationwide.

USA Today 10Best Logo

USA TODAY 10BEST Reader’s Choice Awards ranked Casey's Buffet No. 2 in its Get Your All-You-Can Eat Fix at the 10 Best Buffet Restaurants in US.

AAA Four Diamond Award Logo

manna ave. 123 Restaurant received its ninth consecutive AAA Four Diamond rating in 2023.

SIP Awards Logo

International Consumer Tasting 2022 SIP Awards were bestowed upon End of Days Distillery. Castaway Barrel-Rested Gin (Platinum and Best in Class); Castaway Barrel-Rested Rum (Bronze).

Bartender Spirits Awards  Logo

2022 Bartender Spirit Awards for End of Days Distillery: Port of Entry Vodka (Double Gold & Vodka of the Year 2022); Port of Entry Gin (Double Gold); Port of Entry Rum (Gold); Castaway Barrel-Rested Gin (Gold); Castaway Barrel Rested Rum (Bronze).

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Wilmington made the top of the list of Livability.com's 5 Awesome North Carolina Beer Cities (That Aren’t Asheville). Find out about the city's craft beer evolution, pair oysters with IPAs and discover a brewery inspired by a pirate legend.

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Four local breweries brought home eleven awards from the NC Brewer's Cup competition held by the NC Craft Brewers Alliance. Bill’s Brewing Co. took home the gold for their Party in the Back beer in the coveted New England IPA category and brought home two bronze medals in both the Dark European category for Merganser and in the American IPA category for Wave Break. New Anthem Beer Project took home two medals including& gold in the Double IPA category for Clapback, silver for their She Just Danced Away brew in the Brett, Mixed & Wild Ale category and bronze with their The Vapors brew in the Specialty IPA category. Mad Mole Brewing took home two silver and one bronze medal scoring second place in the International Pilsner category for their Ledermolesen, second place in the Belgian & French Ale category for Marilyn MonMole, and third place in the American Amber & Brown Ale category for Mole Dancer. Wilmington Brewing Company scored two silver medals. Their Label Fiasco came in second in the New England IPA category and their Palm Tree Island beer won second place for American Pale Ale.

Wine Spectator Award of Excellence Logo

Three Wilmington restaurants have been recognized by Wine Spectator magazine's prestigious 2023 Award of Excellence. The Fortunate Glass, Ruth's Chris Steak House and 3315 Cut & Pour.

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The Brewers Association, the nation’s largest trade group of craft brewers, suppliers, distributors, and beer retailers, named Fermental as the Best Beer Bar in North Carolina. Fermental is set inside the comfortable confines of a 1940’s bungalow with a unique assortment of seating areas and is part of the Wilmington Ale Trail. The large outdoor patio and backyard includes picnic tables, food trucks, fire pits and a stage.

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Reader's Digest named Seabird as NC's Best Traditional Restaurant. Featuring abundant amount of fresh seafood cuisine, the restaurant also features unique items like barbecue oysters, fried smoked catfish and swordfish schnitzel.

Reader's Digest Logo

The readers of Reader’s Digest selected Casey’s Buffet in Wilmington as The Best All-You-Can-Eat Buffet in North Carolina. Visitors to Casey’s enjoy Southern soul food including their famous barbecue, pigs' feet, collard greens, fried chicken and much more.

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Southern Living magazine chosen Bitty & Beau's Coffee as one of the South's Best Coffee Shops. At Bitty & Beau's Coffee in Wilmington, the true testament to community shines through the baristas. Servers with IDD (intellectual and developmental disabilities) are the heart and soul of the coffee shop, making each customer feel welcome.

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Eater.com awarded Seabird as Best Beach Restaurant of the Year 2021 for the Carolinas. Noting the restaurant's popular dishes including the fresno pepper sorghum pork ribs, smoked catfish, swordfish schnitzel and an extensive raw bar menu.

       American Distilling Institute Logo

End of Days Distillery, Wilmington’s first grain-to-glass distillery open to the public, took home multiple medals during the American Distilling Institute Awards: Port of Entry Vodka – Silver; Port of Gin – Double Gold, Best in Class; Castaway Series Barrel Rested Gin – Silver; End of Days Distillery – Excellence in Packaging & Brand Identity.

       USA Today 10Best Logo

USA TODAY 10Best Readers' Choice Awards for New Craft Distillery included End of Days Distillery.

South's Best Logo Southern Living

PinPoint restaurant voted one of the South's Best Restaurants, by the readers of Southern Living magazine. Noting "PinPoint shows off the prodigious produce and seafood harvested in the coastal city of Wilmington from butterbean hummus to a rotating cast of local oysters at the raw bar."

Eat This, Not That! Logo

Eat This, Not That! mentioned Wilmington's Fish Bites as North Carolina's Best Seafood Restaurant.

Front Street Brewery

A panel of brewers and judges analyzed beers from across the state and awarded Front Street Brewery eight medals at the 2019 Carolina Championship of Beer. Front Street Brewery took the gold for its Sinful Stout.

Brewers from the Sun Logo

With over 12,000 votes submitted, Wilmington's Mad Mole Brewing won the award of America's Favorite Solar-Powered Microbrewery. In competition with breweries from across the nation, the Mad Mole won top place by over 300 votes. The brewery is Wilmington's only solar-powered brewery with a 22-megawatt solar system and 63 panels on its south-facing roof. Stop in to enjoy a wide variety of beer styles including Belgians, IPAs, hefeweizens and more.

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RX Chicken & Oysters named one of the 50 Best Southern Restaurants in America for 2018 by OpenTable.

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Chef Vivian Howard, owner of Benny's Big Time Pizzeria in Wilmington, added two more awards to her growing list of accolades. She took home the Daytime Emmy Award for Best Culinary Program for her PBS show "A Chef's Life." She also won a James Beard Foundation Award for her video webcast, Black Bean-Glazed Salmon with Ginger Cabbage, which airs on pannacooking.com.

 24/7 Wall St Logo

24/7 Wall St. named Wake n Bake the best doughnut shop in North Carolina in their list of The Best Doughnut Shop in Every State.

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Caprice Bistro named one of the 100 Most Romantic Restaurants in America by OpenTable.

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CNN named Amy Wright, founder of Bitty & Beau's Coffee, their 2017 Hero of the Year for her efforts to advocate for disabled people. The business has also been featured in Southern Living magazine, "The Rachael Ray Show," “The Harry Connick, Jr. Show” and on UNC-TV.

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The Bourbon Review named Front Street Brewery one of the Top 20 Bourbon Bars in the South. Front Street Brewery holds over 400 whiskeys on their shelf, 176 of which are bourbons, serves 11 signature bourbon cocktails, 11 bourbon flights, and a consistent rotation of bourbon barrel aged beers on tap.

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The Bourbon Review included Front Street Brewery and Rebellion in its List of America's Best Bourbon Bars for the South. Front Street Brewery and Rebellion were also featured in America's 99 Best Bourbon Bars in the South in 2021.

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Travel + Leisure included Wilmington on its list of America's Favorite Cities for Brunch.

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Southern Living named PinPoint Restaurant, located in Wilmington's River District, among their picks for Best New Restaurants of 2016.

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CATCH Restaurant’s chef/owner Keith Rhodes was chosen to participate in the 2016 James Beard Foundation Boot Camp. Rhodes was the only NC chef participating in that year’s event.

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Buzzfeed.com named Wake n Bake Donuts (with locations in Carolina Beach and Wilmington) as North Carolina's best doughnut shop.

Rachael Ray logo

“The Rachael Ray Show” chose Bitty & Beau’s Coffee as the show’s official coffee. Bitty & Beau’s is a coffee shop in Wilmington that employs adults with intellectual disabilities. The business has also been featured in Southern Living magazine, “The Harry Connick, Jr. Show” and on UNC-TV.

Garden & Gun logo

Garden and Gun magazine’s Guide to Best Southern Burgers included Wilmington restaurants PT’s Grille and Ogden Tap Room.

Scoutology Logo

Scoutology.com included two Wilmington breweries—Flytrap Brewing & Wilmington Brewing Co.—on its list of 16 Great N.C. Breweries to Try.

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Scoutology.com included three Wilmington & Beaches eateries—manna, Rx Chicken & Oysters and 22 North on its list of Top 21 N.C. New American Restaurants.

Craft Beer logo CraftBeer.com included Wilmington, NC in its list of America's Beeriest Beach Towns.

Thrillist Logo

Thrillist.com included Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn (locations in Wilmington and Carolina Beach) among its list of 33 Best Burritos in America.

Coastal Living Magazine Logo

Coastal Living included Shuckin’ Shack on its list of the Best Seafood Dives in America.


Lodging & Venues 

USA Today 10Best Logo

USA TODAY 10Best Reader’s Choice Travel Awards voted C.W. Worth House Bed and Breakfast as the No.1 spot for Bed and Breakfasts that Offer an Unforgettable Stay in 2023.

AAA Four Diamond Award Logo

Wilmington’s AAA Four Diamond lodging recipients in 2023 include Graystone (23 years) and The Verandas B&B (20 years).

Eat This, Not That! Logo

EatThis.com selected DREAMERS by DW as North Carolina's Best Healthy Eating Hotel.

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Eluxe Magazine included DREAMERS by DW in its roundup of 10 Fully Vegan Hotels Around the World for 2022.

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Vacationidea.com included The Terraces on Sir Tyler on its list of 22 Best North Carolina Wedding Venues in 2021.

AAA Housekeeping Award

16 lodging properties (12 hotels & 4 B&Bs) in Wilmington have been awarded the AAA Inspectors Best of Housekeeping Award, meaning that they fall within the top 25% of all hotels based on cleanliness and condition. This program highlights AAA Diamond designated properties that are the top tier in housekeeping.

Hotels: Residence Inn by Marriott Wilmington Landfall, Hotel Ballast Wilmington, Hilton Garden Inn Wilmington Mayfaire Town Center, Best Western Plus Coastline Inn, Homewood Suites by Hilton-Wilmington/Mayfaire, Hampton Inn by Hilton Medical Park, Hampton Inn-University Area, Hampton Inn by Hilton-Wilmington Downtown, Staybridge Suites Wilmington East, Courtyard by Marriott Downtown/Historic District, Comfort Inn University, Holiday Inn Wilmington

Bed & Breakfasts: The Verandas, Graystone, C.W. Worth House, Rosehill Inn Bed & Breakfast

Select Registry Logo

Select Registry announced two Wilmington bed-and-breakfast inns as 2016 distinguished members: The Verandas and Graystone Inn. Select Registry is a portfolio of more than 320 quality ­assured premier inns, bed and breakfasts, and boutique hotels throughout North America.


Area Accolades

logo for Southern Living's 2024 The South's Best awards

The beauty and charm of this historic port on the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Fear River has made it a longtime favorite filming location for movies and TV shows, earning it the nickname Hollywood East. Over the past few years, Wilmington’s population has grown steadily, and a 2022 study found it to be the top place to move. Read the full article to discover why readers named Wilmington the "South's Best City on the Rise."

MovieMaker Logo

Known for charming homes and gorgeous beaches, Wilmington looks so idyllic that filmmakers can’t help but cast it against type in scary stories — it’s the site of David Lynch’s "Blue Velvet," the fifth "Scream," "The Black Phone;" and "Halloween Kills." Read the full article to see why MovieMaker ranked Wilmington No. 4 of their 2024 Best Places to Live and Work.

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Meetings Today included Wilmington and Beaches among its list of 4 U.S. Beach Destinations for Meetings and Events that Deliver.

Parade Magazine Logo

Parade magazine included Wilmington in its 2023 roundup of The Best Places to Retire: 5 Towns That Support Your Health, Relationships and Make Your Money Last, citing water views, the arts, lifelong learning opportunities and local film production.


TripSavvy.com included Wilmington in its roundup of 10 Best Places Food Lovers Should Visit in 2023.

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"Dawson’s Creek" and other TV and film productions may have put Wilmington on the map, but there’s so much more to this lively riverfront city than Hollywood ties. Find out why Travel + Leisure ranked Wilmington No. 4 on their 25 Best Weekend Getaways in the South.

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According to Realtor.com, Wilmington is the No. 5 fastest growing retirement town in America

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Oprah Daily’s Girlfriend Getaway Guide included Wilmington among its 2021 roundup of 30 Best Places for a Girls Trip, citing a “scenic, walkable downtown with waterfront dining galore, stunning architecture, and convivial bars and restaurants,” along with multiple beaches and TV/film locations.

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According to a study conducted by United Van Lines, throughout the pandemic in 2020 lower-density cities like Wilmington, N.C. (the #1 city for inbound moves at 79%) saw high levels of inbound moves.

Southern Living South's Best 2020

When Southern Living magazine asked their readers to choose The South's Best Cities in 2020, Wilmington's beautiful waterfront city loaded with historic charm made the list. Readers love Wilmington's balance of big-city activity and dining, with a small-town feel that's manageable for a quick getaway. Visit the city’s two-mile Riverwalk and Historic District, where beautiful Victorian-style homes make for many a photo op. Access to three island beaches adds to the attraction, making Wilmington a true southern gem.

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Better Homes & Gardens ranked the NC Azalea Festival as #3 among 9 Must-See Spring Garden Festivals in the U.S.

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Today's Homeowner included Wilmington and beaches in its list of 20 Small Towns Perfect for a Winter Getaway noting our unique museums, extensive history, a wealth of restaurants and walkable downtown.

2018 Travelers' Choice Logo

Wilmington selected as one of TripAdvisor’s 2018 Travelers’ Choice Top Destinations on the Rise. Wilmington ranks #3 among all U.S. destinations on the list. The Trip Advisor Travelers’ Choice Awards represent the very best of travel, as chosen by millions of travelers.

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USA TODAY 10Best Reader’s Choice Travel Awards voted The North Carolina Azalea Festival #5 Best Flower Festivals.

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ValuePenguin.com ranked Wilmington, NC as the #8 Best City for Tourists.

US News & World Report Logo

U.S. News & World Report online travel included Wilmington & Beaches in a roundup of charming under-the-radar Southern cities worth exploring.

Trip Advisor

TripAdvisor.com included Wilmington among its list of 9 Towns with Treasure Waiting to be Discovered.

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The Huffington Post showed the Cucalorus Film Festival some love via the CheapTickets.com blog 10 Best Film Festivals You've Never Heard Of.

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USA TODAY 10Best Reader’s Choice Travel Awards voted Wilmington, NC as the No.1 spot for Best American Riverfront in 2014.

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USA TODAY 10Best Reader’s Choice Travel Awards voted Wilmington, NC as the #1 Best Al Fresco Dining Neighborhood.

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USA TODAY Travel included Wilmington’s Fourth of July celebration in its roundup of dazzling Fourth of July Fireworks Displays in America’s Cities.

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Lumina on Wrightsville Beach, a Holiday Inn Resort named one of The 10 Best Budget Beach Resorts by Parents Magazine.


Read News and Accolades at Our Three Island Beaches